Black rage in The Birth of a Nation, countering Holocaust Denial and more VIFF picks

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THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN: This is the kind of film that makes you appreciate that VIFF comes around every year. Nothing there is as artificial as this.

These people aren’t real and much as the actors squeeze out strong emotions, you aren’t moved by them. I’m told the chief problem with it is that the characters, from the popular novel, aren’t developed enough in the film. I think it’s that they’re not interesting and only exist as symbols. The story belabours a plot about women feeling mistreated in our society.


Emily Blunt’s character Rachel rides a commuter train every day and dreams about the lives of a couple (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) in one white upscale house. Her ex-husband (Justin Theroux) lives nearby with his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson). 

The film is a mystery of sorts as it explores how the lives of those five people are linked. Two of the women have anxieties about conceiving children. Rachel, who is an alcoholic, once walked off with a baby from one.

When she sees a hint of infidelity and reports it, she’s not trusted. When one of the women goes missing and she tries to tell a police detective (Alison Janney) what she knows, she’s not listened to. It gets more and more tangled to the point where confusion sets in.

Then tedium and finally a predictable resolution. (5th Avenue, Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 out of 5  

TWO LOVERS AND A BEAR: Now this is Canadian. Imagine the remotest of places. A completely white vistas of snow in front of you stretching on forever.  You might do some ice fishing. The community you live in looks like a bunch of cargo containers. You’d go wonky wouldn’t you?


Our two lovers (Tatiana Maslany and Dane DeHaan) do. They’ve come here to escape something that’s not defined but pains them. She has recurring memories of an abusive father. He drinks a lot and talks to a polar bear (voiced by Gordon Pinsent) who offers sarcastic advice.

That bit of magic realism is not as wacky as you might imagine but it does draw a big laugh when he tells her that he can talk to bears.  When she announces she’ll be leaving; he flips out.

Nothing unusual, says a Mountie. Just “a broken heart with a rifle.” Filmed in Nunavut, this is a rumination on what life in such a harsh environment can do to you. It gets more and more surrealistic when the lovers go on a snowmobile ride on which he almost dies and both take shelter in a bunker from an old air raid defense system.

With two actors at the top of their form, crisp direction by Kim Nguyen (his film Rebelle won many awards) and beautiful cinematography, this one is worth seeing.  (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5  

VIFF PICKS: You’ve got plenty of great choices at the Vancouver International Film Festival this weekend.

Manchester By the Sea, for instance, an exceptional film with Casey Affleck as a reluctant guardian to a nephew. It screens Saturday and I’ll have more to say when it repeats next week.

Moonlight screens late tonight only. It was a winner in Toronto and its director, Barry Jenkins, is being touted as the next important black filmmaker.

Personal Shopper screens Sat afternoon and next week. Go see why its director, Olivier Assayas says Kristen Stewart, its star, is "the best actress of her generation" (Saturday and Oct 13)

Ten Years sounds very interesting. It’s from Hong Kong and offers five visions of the future there. The Globe and Mail wrote about it six months ago as “The one movie China doesn’t want you to see”. That’s enough to get me there. It screens Saturday and Monday.

More in New Movies

Disney wildlife times two, a blast at American politics and a traumatic teen drama

Also a couple of small but amiable comedies, one of them Canadian

More streaming ideas take you to Brazil, low-life China and two Jesse Eisenberg films

As well as a cleverly-plotted trip to Barcelona thanks to Netflix

Movie theatres are shut down, so what’s streaming?

Some modest recommendations and stay for the last one, an alarm about what has happened to the internet.
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